Imagine being alone in a boat out on the ocean, when suddenly a thick blanket of fog descends. Tim Henneberry drew on his past experience as a fisherman to come up with this analogy to explain mental health issues. One moment “it’s a bright sunny day and I’m out on a fishing boat and I’m hauling my gear up. And I look up and - boom! There’s a bank of fog and I’m in it,” he says.
Once married to a psychiatrist, Tim already had an interest in mental health. And when the relationship ended after seven years, he says he felt like he was in a fog.
“So, you know, to be in that place, is a really dark and dreary place to be in, stuck in that bank of fog with no way out. But I still have my radio, radio being my voice. Because when you’re a fisherman and that happens, you call the other fishermen and they come and they get you out of your fog,” he explains. “So when a person’s in that fog mentally, that’s what you need to do. That’s what we all need to do, is call a friend, talk to somebody. And they will come and get you out of your fog.”
Over the past year, Tim’s interest in mental health has moved him to open three clothing stores in Atlantic Canada, with the most recent location opening this past October in downtown St. John’s. (The others are located in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.) And while the items of clothing themselves are stylish, it’s the message they convey that is truly in vogue. Prominently displayed on each piece of clothing - from toques to scarves to T-shirts - are the words Fog Off. For Tim, the clothing is merely the means to start a conversation about mental health.
“Putting the brand and the brand’s logo and message on the clothing is, you know, out there and it’s in your face,” says Tim.
“If you’re walking down the street with a friend or whatever, and they have a Fog Off shirt on and you’re not familiar with the brand, 100 per cent guaranteed the person will say ‘Fog Off? That’s cool,’ or ‘What’s Fog Off?’ And then, boom! The conversation gets started about mental health.”
But it’s not all talk. Ten per cent of sales from Fog Off go to mental health organizations. Since last March, Tim estimates his Fog Off stores have raised $10,000. For now, the funds from the St. John’s store go to the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). But after recently moving to the province, the Nova Scotia native says he’s discovered there are many organizations he’d like to support with funds from the St. John’s store, places like Stella’s Circle and the Tuckamore Centre.
“I’m thinking more on-the-ground demand for funding for these smaller centres,” he says. “So I think that’s what I’m going to do here on the island. Because I live here and in other provinces I will give right to the CMHA. But being here now and being in Newfoundland, and knowing about all these other organizations who also require funding, I think that’s definitely one of the things I’m going to change.”
Home Sweet Hope
After being open for just a few months, Tim says most people walking into the Water Street store already have an idea of what Fog Off is about.
“The response has been unbelievable. Un-un-unbelievable! A better response than my Halifax store - best move I could have made with this brand is coming to St. John’s,” says Tim. He hopes to make the newest location the flagship and in the future, he says he’d like to see Fog Off stores all across Canada.
Tim’s no stranger to running a business or advocating for a cause. Back in Halifax he owns a successful restaurant and is a renowned country singer, going by the name Steele. And in the past, Tim has raised thousands of dollars for flood victims in Vietnam.
In addition to operating his Fog Off stores, Tim has several related initiatives happening in other provinces that he’s hoping to bring to Newfoundland and Labrador. During the past year, for instance, Team Fog Off has sponsored organizations like the Halifax Fire Combat Team. They get their own shirts, sell them at events and use the profits to travel for combat challenges. And Tim’s just signed on to support the CBS and St. John’s Fire Department Fire Combat Teams in the same way.
Fog Off also recently teamed up with the University of Prince Edward Island and designed T-shirts that were sold through the school’s store, with half the profits going to support on-campus mental health programs. He says it was so successful, there’s a plan in the works with CMHA to carry this out in universities all across the country. Tim says university students, especially, need the support.
“The stress, the pressure, and anxiety and depression is so strong on a university campus and there’s just no funding for mental health support within the education system,” says Tim. In some cases students seeking professional help must wait two months to talk to someone, which he says is much too long.
“This will create some funding, whether it’s for counselling or just support…It’s an initiative to get money back into those universities where the service is so much needed,” says Tim.
Since launching Fog Off, Tim has gotten messages from customers who’ve found strength in the message behind the clothes. He says one man was able to conquer his fear of heights and ride the Banff Gondola wearing his Fog Off hoodie. For this person, Tim says, a simple sweatshirt was transformed into a security blanket - a reminder of inner strength and hope. - By Elizabeth Whitten
Love this!!! Congrats Tim on all your success and too more in your future.